Speak Softly, But Carry a Big Stick: Tom Sawyer and Company's Quest for Linguistic Power A Sociolinguistic Analysis of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Tom Sawyer Abroad
Master of Arts (MA)
Primary Subject Area
Literature, American; Sociology, General
Mark Twain, Sociolinguistics
Ryan, Anne Lea, "Speak Softly, But Carry a Big Stick: Tom Sawyer and Company's Quest for Linguistic Power A Sociolinguistic Analysis of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Tom Sawyer Abroad" (2010). Masters Theses. 136.
Social stigma associated with the way an individual speaks is not new, and language can be a powerful divider of people. Since the Norman Conquest of 1066, researchers have noted that certain English dialects have been more esteemed than others, and it is certainly well-documented that those who spoke these prestigious varieties were the authority figures. Sociolinguists have determined that one's identity is inextricably bound with the way one speaks, and Mark Twain, a nineteenth-century realist, was aware of this concept well before sociolinguistics became a defined field of study in the 1970s. Because he profusely uses varieties of English dialects in his novels, Twain's literature proves to be an ample source for a sociolinguistic study. In his novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1875), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894), Twain uses dialects as a means of developing his characters' personalities and social perceptions. Thus, this thesis describes how Twain's characters use language to manipulate others, assert authority, protect their identities, and develop intimate relationships.